October 15: Margaret Coleman Freeman Buckingham (1946)

Along with her sister Isabel and her aunt Sarah, Margaret Buckingham was one of Epiphany’s most loyal and generous benefactors. Over a period of 50 years and often with attempted anonymity, Margaret Buckingham’s support was present in almost every aspect of Epiphany’s operation and ministry. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1857, Margaret was the youngest child of William Grigsby Freeman and Margaret Cassatt Coleman. Her wealth stemmed from an iron furnace business in southeastern Pennsylvania started by her great grandfather, Robert Coleman. The house at 1525 H Street, NW in which Margaret was born was purchased by her parents and her aunt in the early 1850s. This is the house where Margaret was married to Lt. Commander Benjamin H. Buckingham by Epiphany rector Randolph McKim in 1894. This is the house in which Margaret died on October 15, 1946, aged 78. After funeral services at Epiphany, she was interred in the family plot at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Margaret Buckingham’s philanthropy extended far beyond Epiphany. Examples include the donation of local fire engines, the prevention of consumption and the improvement of housing conditions, sending inner city children to summer camp, gifts to the Red Cross during World War I, hospitals, disaster relief, civic projects, and on and on. Specifically at Epiphany, her gifts included a chapel for the Epiphany Church Home, a gymnasium at the SW Washington Mission House, a chapel at Camp (Fort) Meade, with the stipulation that it be named Epiphany; the Parish House that stands behind the church today and the bells in the church’s tower. Following her death, six stained glass windows were placed in the east transept in memory of Margaret and her sister. The theme is Matthew, Chapter 25 – “For I was hungry and you gave me meat….” The adjoining plaque reads, “The windows in this transept are dedicated to the glory of God and in loving memory of Isabel Coleman Freeman and Margaret Freeman Buckingham whose faith and good works are woven into the life of this church.”

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